Rozzie Roams: Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild with the Wetlands Task Force

ROZZIE ROAMS: ROSLINDALE WETLANDS URBAN WILD WITH THE WETLANDS TASK FORCE

The Rozzie Roams blog series is guest-written by RVMS Marketing Committee Volunteer Rebecca Perriello. Rebecca will be talking to residents who have a special connection to Roslindale’s green spaces.

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that the Roslindale Wetlands Urban Wild exists. Take a look at a map, and you’ll see a small patch of green nestled in the crook of Weld and Walter Streets. Venture in, and you’ll discover that the Wetlands provides a different kind of landscape—it is wilder and more untamed than the green spaces you usually encounter so close to the city. Though it feels very wild, the Wetlands are maintained and advocated for by a group of local volunteers. In addition to providing a home to many different animal and plant species, the 9.5 acres of forested wetland performs an important ecological role, serving as a catch basin for the area’s stormwater. We talked with a few members of the Wetlands Task Force—Inci Kaya, Riaz Ahmed, Deb Beatty Mel, Jim Taff, and Frank O’Brien—to learn more about this hidden gem.

Rebecca: What makes the Wetlands so special?

Inci: It’s a wild space in the middle of a highly developed city. That’s rare. It’s nature’s buffer to absorb extra water so you have a lower risk of flooding. It’s a haven for nature and wildlife. It’s really a peaceful, quiet walk. You see people there with their dogs; kids throw sticks in the water or try to poke their feet in the ice when it’s frozen in the winter. In the summer it’s pretty tropical and lush. If you’re looking to check out for half an hour—it’s a half-hour-long loop— you can really be in the middle of the city and not hear anything, just the sound of the trees.

Riaz: The fact that it’s a really natural feeling space, not really manicured in any way, except the walking path that volunteers have cared for so nicely. And it is a useful part of the city. It really does so much water control and acts as a sponge to just soak everything up.

I also appreciate that it’s a way kids get to experience something like that, and they have a lot of fun with it. It’s kind of the most fun in the winter when it’s frozen and they can take different paths across the ice. Then in the spring it’s muddy and they play “avoid the lava” games, going from rock to rock. It’s not the type of thing you see really anywhere else. The Arboretum is of course amazing, but it is quite manicured, well taken care of— wonderful for what it is, but this is one of the few opportunities to get into something wild, and it’s something we and probably many other people never knew was here. During the cleanup days we try to clear the area and make the entrances more obvious. It’s more obvious if you know to go there, but you have to know to look for it first.


RP: Could you tell me a little about the history of this space?

Frank: The current wetlands area is a low-point in the local area topography, with water draining from nearby higher elevations.

The natural land before development would have been New England forest with nearby hills and ponds formed by the receding glaciers approximately 18,000 years ago. This post-ice age process accounts for the kettle holes, such as Jamaica Pond and the countless rocks and boulders scattered in the landscape and now made into stone walls and other familiar features of the New England landscape.

Locally, the Roslindale Wetlands are a lowland area at approximately 100 feet above sea level, with the surrounding area rising to slightly higher elevations, such as 170 feet at Weld Hill and 270 at Peters Hill in the Arboretum. Thus, rain falling in the surrounding area will flow downhill to the locally lowest point.

These water patterns have been somewhat changed by the city’s street drainage systems, but the Roslindale Wetlands still receives rainwater from surrounding areas by the city’s own storm drain infrastructure, much the same as has been true for the past 18,000 years.


RP: How and when did the Task Force come about?

Jim: The Task Force arose circa 2004 out of a meeting of more than 100 neighbors to learn about and discuss the proposed multi-structure, multi-unit condo development at 104-108 Walter Street. People from all around the neighborhood joined in, and many hundreds to a thousand more supported the goals with contributions by signing petitions and calling representatives.


RP: Riaz mentioned cleanups. Could you tell me a bit about the efforts to care for the space?

JT: Cleanups were spring and fall yearly for many years. After the joint City–resident hacking out of large, impenetrable stretches of brambles, the removal of multiple dumpsters-worth of tires, large metal and wood pieces, and other bulk dumpings, plantings of dozens of native trees and shrubs, and the construction of the perimeter trail, cleanups and other work days have been randomly scheduled, as needed. The average is still probably one per year or one and a half sessions every two years. Paul Sutton, from the City of Boston’s Urban Wilds Initiative, often sets up and carries these out with the assistance of the Task Force and other professional groups or youth volunteers.


RP: What sort of wildlife can you see here?

Deb: The bird life in the wetlands is remarkable, and it has been cited as a “hotspot” for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s app, eBird. I’m not a very skilled bird watcher, but I can hear the songs of several species that I have come to recognize (cardinals, gray catbirds, and redwing blackbirds mainly) as well as woodpeckers. The hawks are impressive when they make their appearance.

JT: In addition to the birds Deb mentioned, there are also owls, orioles, migrating warblers, and wild turkeys. The usual small mammals include raccoons, squirrels, feral cats, possums, foxes, voles, and other field rodents. Somewhat more exotic creatures include deer, coyotes (now more common), and fisher cats. We used to have pheasants and salamanders. There is also a diverse scattering of wildflowers and naturalized garden perennials.


RP: Does the Task Force coordinate its efforts with any other groups?

IK: We reached out to Mass Audubon to see what kind of support they could give us. Assessing the soil and the plants, and giving us some kind of evaluation.

FO: The Wetlands could benefit from their expertise on such issues as non-native and invasive plant removal, habitat restoration, and public trail improvements. Based on this, the City and Wetlands Task Force have been working with them to define an initial project. The project would include a site inspection, mapping and natural resource inventory, priority action lists, and recommended next steps. The final work program has not been decided on, but we are hopeful that it will be underway before long and completed by the end of 2018.


RP: What are the benefits of coming to a space like the Wetlands?

IK: I think it quiets your mind, therefore it calms your body. When you notice your surroundings, your mind is calmed and cleansed. That carries over to a calm and clean body. This is a big backyard for anyone. You can walk around and notice different things. Our kids and the other kids that go there all seem to enjoy it year round. It always impresses me how much you know you might not want to go out on a 10 degree day, but they enjoy being out there.

RA: It’s definitely a peaceful place. That’s what I notice when I walk through it by myself. It helps me relax. It makes me feel not so much like I’m right in the middle of the city. To have something that wild in our neighborhood is very special.


RP: What do you like most about Roslindale? What is your favorite business in the square?

RA: I really love that it has a real town square. I love the little shops. I love that within a one-minute walk you have the Boston Cheese Cellar and Solera, with friendly people working there. And the market, along with the more old-school places like Tony’s, of course.

The walkability is great, and Roslindale really has a neighborhood feeling to it. On weekends I’ll walk down with the kids, because the square can be a destination in itself on a Saturday morning. I liked when Birch Street was closed to traffic and there were activities there and then there’s the Farmers Market itself. We’re looking forward to Distraction Brewing, and although I was sad to see Redd’s go, I’m excited to see whatever fills that space next.

IK: Definitely Birch Street Bistro and 753 South.


RP: How do you think we can encourage people to spend more time in Roslindale’s green spaces?

IK and RA: People could start by checking out websites to get a sense of these green spaces and what is being done to protect them. But more importantly we would encourage them to get out and visit the Arboretum in different seasons to note how the landscape changes from summer to winter, and how thoughtfully the trees are pruned and cared for. For a wilder experience, I would encourage them to come out for a nature walk in the Wetlands and Allandale Woods Urban Wild. There are probably other lovely hidden gems that we have yet to discover ourselves. 

We have to say that Roslindale residents value green spaces very much. Their sentiments are audible in neighborhood conversations, some of which are vibrant Facebook groups where they express genuine concern over how development can impact green spaces, exchange ideas about planting native plants and curtailing invasive species, and share the bounty of their vegetable gardens with neighbors regularly.

New Business Profile: DiPesa Violins

New Business Profile: DiPesa Violins

RVMS welcomes DiPesa Violins as the newest Roslindale Village business! The owner, Alan DiPesa, has been making and repairing violins for 10 years. He went to the North Bennet Street School, a premiere craft and trade school in the North End and started his business in Boston working in collaboration with another violin maker and also worked from home. Alan’s home also happens to be in Roslindale!
 
“I love Roslindale because — well, I happened into Roslindale because we couldn’t afford JP [where he used to live], and it ended up being a better fit for my personality, a little quieter and more neighborhoody and less fancy (in a good way).”
 
Alan repairs and makes violins, violas, and cellos, and his customers tend to be music teachers, professional musicians, and students. His business and workshop space is located in Unit 9 on the second floor of 4252 Washington Street (above PS Gourmet). He would (and so would we) love to see this second floor filled with other makers of any kind. He is excited to be part of the Roslindale business community since he lives in the neighborhood and loves Rozzie already.
 
 “My favorite Roslindale businesses — it’s a 50/50 tie between Craft Beer Cellar and Joanne Rossman. Both places have wonderful people that run them — both Bryan and Joanne are create an inviting atmosphere at both shops. I feel very welcomed at both of them.” 
 
Welcome, Alan!
 
DiPesa Violins
4252 Washington Street, Unit 9
www.dipesaviolins.com
 

Rozzie & Me: Hilary Sullivan

Rozzie & Me: Hilary Sullivan

The Rozzie & Me blog series is guest-written by RVMS Marketing Committee Volunteer Kelly Ransom. Kelly will be interviewing residents, business-owners, and folks from all walks-of-life who make Roslindale a special place to live and work.

Roslindale Village Main Streets is a volunteer-driven organization that relies on the donated time of committed individuals like RVMS Board of Directors Clerk Hilary Sullivan. Today, we are talking with Hilary about connecting her work at Northeastern to RVMS, her first time driving through Roslindale, and thoughtfully embracing urban renewal.

K: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

H: I grew up out in Western Mass in the Northampton area in a pretty small town. I went to a regional high school. It was 7th through 12th grade, comprised of six different towns, and I was in a graduating class of 104. I feel like I grew up in a place where everyone knows everyone. As I got older, I lived in several different cities. I like living in cities, but also still really like the idea of a city that feels like a community. I studied abroad in London and lived in D.C. for four  years prior to moving to Boston. I have been in Boston for ten years. The first three years I was in JP, and then for the last seven I’ve been in Roslindale.


K: You are on the Board  of Directors with Roslindale Village Main Street. Tell me about that.

H: I’ve been involved with RVMS for about five or six years. I work at Northeastern in the Center of Community Service which connects students with volunteer opportunities in the local area. When I moved to Roslindale, we had a Northeastern co-op student who was working at RVMS, and he was a student in a civic engagement program I ran. I had started to go to the Farmers Market and get involved a little bit. The co-op student identified the need for volunteers in Roslindale so I connected with him and put it out to the students. RVMS soon started to regularly rely on me to connect students to volunteer opportunities in Roslindale such as the Egg Hunt and the Farmers Market.

I’ve always been involved with volunteering. After I graduated college, I served in AmeriCorps for two years. It’s often referred to as the domestic Peace Corps. I had the chance to travel all around during my two years of service and learned about communities and community engagement. I think that the best way to make a community better is for the people in that community to be empowered to make it better. Our philosophy at Northeastern is that we listen to what the community is looking for and then we send volunteers. We never send volunteers unless we are invited or asked to go. Through doing that work and then through realizing that I really wanted to be involved in my community, it just became a natural fit to increase my involvement  with RVMS. I expressed interest and was invited to interview five years ago and I have been on the Board for four.

On the Board, I am the Clerk. I take all of the minutes and help move our work forward. I have a Masters in Nonprofit Management, so I try to help a lot with some of the behind the scenes stuff. For the last couple years, I’ve run the nominating committee which helps recruit new board members and co-lead the Design Committee. Peter Castellucci, my co-chair, is awesome with the actual design stuff, and I help to move projects along. I also serve on the Marketing Committee.


K: If you had to make an estimate, how many volunteers do you think you’ve brought to RVMS over the past five years?

H: I would say between one-time volunteers who have only come for a market or fundraiser and then some of the people who have stayed on as volunteers over the years, it would be about 50 volunteers. That’s my guess.

 

K: That’s a big impact! Why do you think organizations like RVMS are important?

H: RVMS is unique in that it is its own nonprofit but it is also in partnership with the City. I see that we play two different roles. One of the roles we play is to be advocates and elevate issues and ideas in the community to the City. We are often the conduit or the voice for what businesses need, what residents want, what we as a whole agree that is important, whether it’s infrastructure or liquor licenses that can be available to any business in Roslindale. I think we are often the organized voice to make that happen. I think these things can happen without organizations like RVMS, but it takes a lot longer and it’s a lot more difficult.

I think the other thing is what I mentioned earlier, the idea that if we want a neighborhood to grow, improve, or stay a certain way, then we need people to spearhead it. We need the people who live in, work in, and are a part of a place to be the ones trying to make change. I see that RVMS is doing that. We have a staff of two full-time people and one-part-time person, and we get a lot done. A lot of that is due to the passionate volunteers. I probably volunteer anywhere between 5 to 15 hours a week with RVMS, and it’s because I genuinely care. It doesn’t feel like work.


K: Do you have a favorite Roslindale memory that you would like to share?

H: There are lots of things that I love that I’ve done here and that I’ve been a part of here. The strongest memory is the first time that I came to Roslindale. When I was living in JP, I had a good friend who had grown up in Roslindale. I was always asking about it but I never ventured here. He and I went to a party one night and it was in Roslindale somewhere. We drove in one way but I didn’t see much of anything. Then, when we came back, it was around midnight and we were driving down Corinth Street by the traffic statue and I was like “Oh my God! Where are we? This is the cutest place I have ever seen.” He said “This is Roslindale. I’ve told you about this place a million times.”

So, the next day, we came back and walked around and he pointed things out to me and was telling me how different it was growing up here. I remember going to the Village Market. We went into Fornax. There was a book store here, and we went there too. I remember thinking that this place was special. Then a year or so later is when I moved here.

K: Do you have a favorite Roslindale event?

H: Oh my gosh. There are so many. I have to say that both the Egg Hunt and the Roslindale Day Parade are two of my absolute favorites. They are such diverse Roslindale events. They are events that I truly feel like bring out everybody. You see people from all different backgrounds who look different and talk different but they all come together for this common purpose. Tom Donahue, a longtime Roslindale resident and volunteer, leads both of those events and is awesome.  I’m proud of the work I’ve done here in the last five years, but Tom has been doing this work forever. I love that he loves to bring the community together and celebrate. I appreciate both of those events because I think they’re fun and they’re community oriented. But I also appreciate them because, genuinely, I think they represent the people in Roslindale who are really trying to build something and make this a place that is a really great place to be.

 

K: What are some of your favorite places to go in Roslindale?

H: I am a Western Mass country girl at heart so the Arboretum is actually my favorite place in Roslindale. It’s a great place to clear my head and I love it there. I am so lucky that I get to live in an urban environment but still feel like I can get away. It’s amazing. There are also many, many awesome stores and restaurants here.

 

K: What would you like to see in Roslindale in the future?

H: I think that we’re seeing urban renewal everywhere across the country. We’re seeing it in Boston and we’re certainly seeing it in Roslindale. I think you have to embrace that people want to live in cities. I don’t think there’s any other option than to embrace development, but I think that it has to be really thoughtful. I really want to be thoughtful about how Roslindale develops and how to keep it as this unique diverse place. I absolutely want every storefront filled, but I don’t want every storefront filled up with a really fancy shop because not everyone can afford that. I want to see businesses and stores that everybody who wants to be in Roslindale and who has historically been in Roslindale can go to shop. I want us to embrace the change that is inevitable, but I want to channel it in a way that is really inclusive and truly makes it a diverse neighborhood. I really love Roslindale and feel like it is this magical little enclave tucked in the southwest corner of Boston.